Stephen Matthews

Stephen Matthews

Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Demography

Director, Program in Demography

Graduate Faculty, Social Data Analytics

Research Rotation Host, BDSS-IGERT (Beatrice Abiero, Jenny Mason, Maggie Houchen, 2013-14)

507 Oswald Tower


My research interests focus on the connections between people and places. I have a long standing interest in spatial demography and the use of GIS and spatial analysis to study population health and health inequality in community contexts. More specifically, I am interested in the distribution of resources, risks, and opportunities and how accessibility and utilization of these resources, risks, and opportunities impact individual health and wellbeing. As a transdiciplinary scholar I have published in several fields — demography, sociology epidemiology, public health, geography — on topics including adolescent risk taking behaviors, physical activity, diet and obesity, residential segregation, neighborhood change, access to health care, health care distrust, cancer screening, infant mortality, mortality, alcohol outlets, crime, and religious landscapes. A focus on race/ethnicity and income inequalities cross-cut all of my major research projects. While most of my work is US focused I am involved in international projects, the most recent of which is a Pan-University Network for Global Health supported conference on "migration, urbanization and health in southern Africa" at the University of the Witswatersrand, South Africa (see

An important part of my work is an interest in conceptual and methodological issues associated with how neighborhoods are defined and their attributes are measured, and the relevance of these definitions and measures to individual behavior and health outcomes. In regards to the latter I have developed and used methods to track individual movements across space (i.e., contexts) to try to get a better handle on actual contextual exposures during the course of daily activities (rather than solely relying on residential tracts and other convenient units of analysis). To that end I have also used new methodological approach based on the integration of GIS and ethnography (geoethnography) and in my work with physical activity researchers utilize global positioning system (GPS) units and activity logs.

Over the next few years my goals are to focus my research, publish as widely as possible in demography, sociology, and health science journals, and remain grant active, seeking new sources of funding for my own research.

Teaching interests are in Health, Disease & Society/Medical Sociology, Urban Sociology, Spatial Demography and GIS/Spatial Analysis. I am currently helping to develop materials for a program in Applied Demography.

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